MASN Wins Inning Over Time Warner At FCC

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Washington—Federal Communications Commission staff on Thursday ordered Time Warner Cable to give wide distribution in North Carolina to a regional sports network that airs Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles baseball games.

The ruling, handed down by FCC Media Bureau chief Monica Desai, held that Time Warner Cable discriminated against Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) by refusing to provide carriage on an analog tier that most subscribers receive.

The ruling ordered Time Warner to distribute MASN on an analog tier within 30 days. Time Warner Cable has 1.5 million subscribers in North Carolina, the home state of FCC chairman Kevin Martin.

Desai's ruling wasn't the final word in the dispute.

“We disagree with the Media Bureau's decision and plan to appeal to the full Commission," said Time Warner Cable spokesman Alexander Dudley.

The cable company can take the FCC to court at some point, too.

"The FCC's Media Bureau has determined that Time Warner Cable is breaking the law by discriminating against a competing cable network,” MASN attorney David Frederick said in a statement. “Because of Time Warner's unlawful and anticompetitive behavior, North Carolina sports fans, colleges and universities are suffering."

“Three times this matter has been litigated, and three times the outcome has favored MASN,” he added. “For the sake of the fans, we hope the third time is the charm.”

On Oct. 10, Desai, a Martin appointee, ordered that a batch of program carriage disputes go before an administrative law judge (ALJ), including the NFL Network's complaint that Comcast shouldn't be allowed to distribute the network exclusively on a digital sports tier.

Martin had ordered the Media Bureau to require Comcast to expand its carriage of the NFL Network and pay a license fee recommended by an ALJ. But the other four FCC commissioners balked.

They voted to refer the NFL Network's complaint and Desai's tentative finding of discrimination to an ALJ with a 60-day deadline to issue a ruling.

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